Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
Million Mile Secrets reader Fran emails:
Daraius, thanks for all the 2014 help! Do you know why Delta is charging $350 in taxes and fees for a 1-way award ticket from London Heathrow to Boston? Round-trips from Boston to London are only $250.
They changed their policy from last year and now allow 1-way award flights. Shouldn’t it be possible to book a 1-way ticket and pay half the fees of a round-trip? Some flights are much less originating from Boston. Could it be a mistake?
This is a great question! Delta made big changes to their SkyMiles frequent flyer program on January 1, 2015. And you can now book 1-way award tickets for half the number of miles as round-trip tickets.
So shouldn’t the fees be half as much, too?
The answer isn’t so simple. It depends on your departure city!
I’ll explain why flights originating in Europe have higher fees, more so if you’re departing from the UK.
What’s the Deal?
Before January 1, 2015, if you wanted to book a 1-way award ticket on Delta, you’d have to pay the round-trip price.
But now you can book 1-way award tickets for half the number of miles as a round-trip. The taxes and fees, however, are a different story.
In the past, Delta would add fuel surcharges to round-trip flights originating in Europe to the US. However, if your itinerary started in the US, you wouldn’t pay fuel surcharges.
Now that Delta allows 1-way award tickets, the principle remains the same. Round-trip or 1-way award tickets originating in the US do NOT have fuel surcharges added. Flights originating in Europe DO.
Let’s look at Fran’s example. A low level, round-trip, coach class award ticket from Boston to London Heathrow costs 60,000 miles and ~$199 in taxes and fees.
If we book these flights as 2 separate 1-way award tickets, the taxes and fees are NOT split evenly between the outbound and the return flights!
A 1-way award flight from Boston to London Heathrow costs 30,000 miles and ~$6! The taxes and fees are small because there are NO fuel surcharges on flights leaving the US for Europe.
But look at the taxes and fees on a 1-way award flight from London to Boston! You’ll pay 30,000 miles and ~237 British pounds (~$361)!
It’s enough to rile up Bostonians to throw tea into the harbor while shouting, “No taxation without representation!”
As Fran noticed, that’s more than the total taxes and fees on a round-trip ticket!
Why Such a Difference?
You’ll pay much higher taxes and fees on a 1-way ticket from London Heathrow to Boston for 2 reasons:
- Delta adds fuel surcharges to award tickets originating in Europe
- Passengers departing the UK pay an Air Passenger Duty, which varies depending on the destination and class of service, plus there’s an extra tax for folks departing London Heathrow (Passenger Service Charge)
You’ll still pay the UK Air Passenger duty if you book a round-trip ticket originating in the US. So the big difference is the fuel surcharge, which Delta adds because the flight originates in Europe.
Note: Folks connecting through a UK airport (a stopover of less than 24 hours) don’t have to pay the Air Passenger Duty.
So taxes and fees on a round-trip or 1-way award flight originating in the US are lower because Delta does NOT add fuel surcharges to these tickets.
Fran’s best bet is to book a round-trip award flight starting in Boston. But if she doesn’t have enough Delta miles, she should consider booking the Boston to London flight on Delta (only ~$6 in fees).
Then, choose an airline that does NOT add fuel surcharges for the return trip, like United Airlines.
You’ll pay fuel surcharges on 1-way and round-trip Delta award flights originating in Europe. There are NO fuel surcharges on flights to Europe that begin in the US.
Because of this, the taxes and fees on a 1-way flight from Europe to the US are MORE than a round-trip award ticket originating from the US to Europe.
And remember, any flight departing the UK (especially London Heathrow) will have higher fees, because of their departure taxes. That’s why I avoid flying out of UK airports whenever possible!
Thanks for the question, Fran!